League of Legends Dominion First Look
By Jason Harper (Hhean), OnRPG MOBA Reporter
Leagues of Legends: Dominion has just opened for a limited beta to both European and American servers to the sound of eager screams, and butts the world over parking themselves on little spinny chairs. I’ve tried to cram in as many games as possible to thoroughly ‘research’ this new game mode, collect some thoughts on it, and bring you my half-thought fever dreams committed to a digitized page.
Dominion is bonkers. It’s still League of Legends, but it is a different beast entirely. It has all the same champions, yet each winds up doing some wholly different things. If you’re an old hand at League of Legends, this game type is the equivalent of coming back home to find your grandma piloting a fighter jet from her rocking chair. It’s still something old and familiar, but the game is suddenly doing things you never thought possible.
For those of you who’ve missed a good deal of Riot’s promotional material for their new game type; Dominion is a capture and hold game with a MOBA twist. The game type’s singular map, The Crystal Scar, is won by holding more control points than the opposing team. When one team possesses the lesser number of points, their nexus begins to lose health, with the damage increasing depending on how many points down the team is. This system, the same as those used by Relic’s RTS titles, allows for a game to turn on a dime at any given moment. It’s not hyperbole when I say my team won a game with just one hit point left on our nexus, ripping victory from our enemies after they’d already typed out a boastful “gg”. Defeat in Dominion is never guaranteed. I don’t even know if the game type even has a surrender option; I’ve never had cause to use it.
Taking points is done in a similar manner to Relic’s titles as well. Your champion must make themselves vulnerable while they channel magical energy towards the point, slowly capturing it. This also disables the point’s tower, stopping it from shooting yourself or allies. Towers are brutal in Dominion, showering you with giant doses of laser guided pain. Unless you can get a teammate to keep the thing from shooting, or have the new summoner spell Garrison on hand, fighting under one is a death sentence. This makes for interesting play, as one person holding a point against two is very possible, but they have to keep hitting the person trying to capture the point, not the one attempting to murder them. Hilarity ensues as the defender is forced to bounce back and forth between the attackers at breakneck speed.
“Fast” is the key word that Riot has been pushing with Dominion, and the mode is definitely that, and then some. Everything in the game, from the way your nexus loses health, to the dramatically increased experience and gold you begin the game with, is designed to create matches that last somewhere between ten to twenty minutes. In a game of Dominion, there is only constant battle, with a brief calm in your spawn pool before the match truly begins, and the icy reprieve granted by death. You passively gain gold and experience at an incredible rate, so farming in a lane is merely an option, not a necessity. Grabbing points, fighting, fleeing, screaming, and swearing makes up the overwhelming majority of a Dominion game, rather than stealing gold from midgets.
While most of the fighting in Dominion centres around small-scale fights of one to three champions per side, full team fights will happen on occasion. These often occur as a result of Quests, which are objectives that appear dynamically throughout the match, depending on which team is holding certain points at a given time. Quests are Dominion’s replacement for the boss monsters in the classic game type, giving your entire team a 10% damage bonus and damaging the enemy nexus if you manage to complete them. To complete a quest, you will have to defend one of your currently owned points, and attack an enemy controlled point next to it. The enemy team receives a mirror of your quest, to assault your point and defend theirs. When working as intended, I like this addition quite a lot. Quests draw everyone to the two vital points as they try to secure them, resulting in some dramatic confrontations. However, you can sometimes get lucky/unlucky and have a quest pop up just as a team is about to capture a point anyway, resulting in a free buff for one side. Still, the system is in its early days, and after refining out that annoyance, I expect it will work very well.
While the main fighting is going to be going on around the control points, there are also lesser objectives to think about as well. Health packs litter the map, just on the edges of the visible outer ring, giving anyone who walks over them a small, instant, bit of health. This can be critical in some engagements, as cutting a fleeing enemy off from a nearby health pack can make or break close fights. I’ve grabbed them on occasion even when I don’t need them, just so that an enemy won’t be able to take them as they advance on a point. Health packs, combined with the 20% healing nerf inflicted on all characters, allow a non-sustain champion to stay in the field for just as long as any self-sustaining champion. Given the tendency for champions without sustain to be dramatically more powerful in short bursts than sustain champions, this can lead to some visible power differences between the cast. Mundo goes where he pleases no longer.
As you head further into the centre of the map, speed shrines can be found that shoot your champion off at high velocity, ideal for moving quickly between points or escaping from someone chasing you down. Given how much movement there is between points, the speed buff is a welcome addition, and helps offset the advantage gained by a number of the high mobility characters in the game.
In the centre of the map, not hidden by the fog of war, is a pair of colour coded triangular objects. Any member of your team is able to make use of one of these relics, requiring the champion to channel in the same manner as when capturing a point. Doing so will give the champion who takes the artifact the Storm Shield, a buff that gives a damage shield and a large damage boost. Think of this as a hyper red/blue buff that makes one person on your team able to take on at least two enemies at once. Taking these at just the right moment can really swing an important capture in your favour.
All of the above ensures that there is rarely a reason to simply entrench yourself on a given point and turtle up. Dominion rewards aggression far more than conservative play; You gain more points from attacking than holding, and the damage you deal to an enemy nexus increases dramatically as you capture more than 3 points. So while the logical thing seems to be to hold just three points and turtle up, often it can be to your advantage to press the attack when you get a chance, even if you only get the extra points for a short while before backing off. When you’re at a disadvantage though, you are going to need an extremely mobile character to run interference, neutralizing enemy capture points and distracting them so your team can begin making a real assault on a point.
Mobility is king in Dominion, both for use as an offensive and defensive tool. Champions like Nocturne and Rammus are able to abuse their speed both to capture neutral points quickly in the early game, and also cross half the map to stop their own team’s point from being captured later on. The only time you want a champion that doesn’t move like a cheetah with a Ferrari stuck up its ass is if you get some extreme blocking potential in return. Champions like Yorick and Heimerdinger fill this role very well, as it is incredibly difficult to capture a point under their watchful gaze.
Outside of entrenching defenders and high mobility aggressors, Dominion still allows for a good variety of characters who feel like strong, capable additions to any team. Support champions are still very worthwhile in Dominion, despite the fact that they are rarely seen in solo queue. Traditional supports like Taric and Sona are still effective, though Soraka seems to be lacking in the new game type. However, I think what is viable as a ‘support’ is going to be slightly different in Dominion. Gangplank, for example, is a great support in Dominion, giving his team speed, a global means of stopping point captures, and still being able to hold his own in a fight.
One very annoying thing about Dominion is how difficult late game carries can be to deal with. Jax, Akali, Kog’maw and their ilk become very powerful after only a few minutes into the game. In classic league of legends you could shut down their farming to stop their late game dominance, but in Dominion, the passive experience and gold gains ensure that you simply cannot stop them from becoming late game powerhouses.
The only other issue I’ve had with the current state of the Crystal Scar is that it seems to cause game freezes quite frequently. I’ve rarely had a game in which someone doesn’t disconnect due to these technical problems. The map is still in beta, so this is an acceptable issue, but I’m really hoping it doesn’t wind up in the final release.
I’ve enjoyed Dominion a lot. I’ve barely managed to find the time to write this article, due to constantly ‘researching’ the game mode. It’s fast and chaotic, running at a blistering pace compared to classic MOBA play. Victory is never assured, and always goes to those who want it more.
I’m not yet sold that it’s as deep a gametype as its older brother Summoner’s Rift, but it also doesn’t really need to be. It should be a riot to watch on a stream, being far more about spectacle, drama and clutch victories than the more thoughtful and considered game that is found in a classic MOBA map. If Riot wanted something that is going to be entertaining as all hell to watch, rather than something that is incredibly deep and complex, then they have achieved that goal perfectly.
Whether you’re a die hard fan of League of Legends like myself, a jaded old player who gave up on the game months ago, or a complete newcomer to MOBAs as a whole, there is something good to be found in Dominion. If you’ve missed out on the beta events so far, I highly recommend at least giving the new game type a go when it enters final release. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have more ‘research’ to conduct. Purely for future articles, of course.
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